Friday, October 30, 2009

Australian Art Orchestra

In an interesting combination of two trumpeters, two guitarists, two drummers, a bassist and a pianist, Scott Tinkler led this excerpted Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) ensemble. The instrumentation was the easiest target for conversation. Even Gerry Koster, who was broadcasting this live for ABC Classic FM's Jazz Up Late program mentioned it in his intro.

Aside: Funny being in the live audience for a national broadcast... Gerry warns us what's happening, tells us to be enthusiastic in our applause, at the right moments, and turn our mobile phones off to be sure we're not 'part of the broadcast'. What he didn't tell us was that while the news was on, we'd be sitting in silence, with musicians shuffling self-consciously on the stage and all of us, poised, ready to applaud and cheer when prompted... all in absolute silence. Tee hee!

But anyway, back to it. The instrumentation. Well, I found it interesting too. I knew this music was going to require active listening. After all it's Scott we're talking about. He's on an adventure!

In any case, the instrumentation of doubles made it possible to hear and see some really interesting differences between the approach and sounds of the players. I was able to articulate some things after this concert that I had not been able to before... I have heard Stephen Magnusson's guitar spoken of as having a vocal quality recently. I agree with that and it's one of the things that makes his playing distinctive. And I loved the way it manifested in 'The Streets of Forbes' that I heard at Stonnington Jazz this year. Carl Dewhurst's playing on the other hand is different. I found myself thinking of the way Stephen's sound comes from the voice, the chest, a higher articulate form of expression. Carl's is more 'cellular'; I felt his sound in my bones, in marrow cells and platelets. He's earthed in deep places, speaking of things that have no voice... Then Scott and Phil. I realised with a jolt that trumpets are about air [who said I'm slow?!?]. Phil plays with the air, catching it and toying with it. The mute used to that effect. This aligns with his way of swaying. He's in the air, part of it. And Scott's doing different things with the air. He builds boxes around it, like a kid playing with rivulets of water in a rainstorm; he puts barricades in front of the flow, makes the air go around, forces it to mutate and become something else in the process. He stands solid, legs apart and neck tendons distended...

Simon Barker and Ken Eadie have such distinct styles. A striking scene in the film Intangible Asset #82 is where Simon is learning to fall, to let the earth's gravity take him. I see that in the way he plays. There's a slow weight in the way the sticks fall, in the way his body follows them. Such power in this relaxation though... A submission to the earth's forces and a harnessing of them at the same time. Ken is tight, fierce, stretched. His face, body, stance, strike... they all speak of readiness and fight.

I dread the idea of any of these musicians reading this and thinking any of what I say is negative or positive. I'm just trying to explore an 'is-ness'... "it is what it is"

Phil Rex and Marc Hannaford were of course superb.

Picture of Scott Tinkler taken by Laki Sideris in Melbourne earlier this year. Laki's photos also appear in extempore Issue 3.

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